Thursday, February 12, 2009

George, by Alfred Maurer

George Washington is Alfred Maurer's final painting. After he painted this, his father died at one hundred, and then Alfred hung himself. His relationship with his father was a glitch in his life. I wonder if Maurer's painting of George Washington, the father of his country, harkens to what one father of the Enlightenment, Rousseau, wrote in the beginning of his Social Contract.
Chapter two, Rousseau, The Social Contract:
"The most ancient of all societies, and the only one that is natural, is the family: and even so the children remain attached to the father only so long as they need him for their preservation. As soon as this need ceases, the natural bond is dissolved. The children, released from the obedience they owed to the father, and the father released from the care he owed his children, return equally to independence. If they remain united, they continue so no longer naturally, but voluntarily; and the family itself is then maintained only by convention. This common liberty results from the nature of man.
The family then may be called the first model of political societies. The ruler corresponds to the father, and the people to the children; and all, being born free and equal, alienate their liberty only for their own advantage. The whole difference is that, in the family, the love of the father for his children repays him for the care he takes of them, while in the State, the pleasure of commanding takes the place of love which the chief cannot have for the people under him."
The role of the father is one I will never play, being born female, but I'm thinking now of the many fathers I am to go on stage with in this life. The obvious one, dad, but also the father of the organization where I work, the father of invention, and of course, the father of my country. How would I paint the president today?
Portland is lucky to have this piece. Most of Maurer's work is privately owned, and of course, there is only one last painting.

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